Smoking banned at some Carolina beaches

WRIGHTSVILLE, NC (WECT/WMBF) - The two-year battle has finally come to an end with Wrightsville Beach residents voting to ban smoking on the beach, and story is the same below the state line.

Of 1,675 residents, 966 voted in favor of the smoking ban at Wrightsville Beach.

Town officials will now have to prepare the beach as a non-smoking zone, putting up signs and violation fines.

Law enforcement will also have to train officers and lifeguards on being vigilant and when to start handing out citations.

This is a big win for the Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation who has been working hard to spread awareness about the hazards of smoking and making sure residents are informed enough to vote for the ban.

Town Council of Wrightsville Beach repeatedly voted against the ban 3-2. Their main concern was enforcement.

Wrightsville Beach is the first beach in North Carolina to ban smoking on its shores. The town was able to put this issue on this year's ballot because the beach is town owned.

In Horry County, depending on which beach you go to will determine which one you can light up a cigarette and have a smoke on the beach. In Myrtle Beach, you are free to smoke on the sand. However, if you drive down to Surfside Beach you are not allowed to smoke in any public building or at the beach.

In North Myrtle Beach, feel free to smoke on the beach but you will not be able to smoke inside a bar or restaurant.

Mark Kruea with the City of Myrtle Beach said the different laws along the Grand Strand can be confusing, especially to people who are not from here. However, he said the best solution is not everyone making their own rules, instead it should be one statewide law.

"From the city's perspective the best approach would be to do it statewide,"  said Kruea.  "Not this jurisdiction does this that jurisdiction does something different than that, just make a common rule that would be applicable statewide for public places."

In North Myrtle Beach, the city council enacted a law just months ago banning smoking inside public buildings.

Councilman Hank Thomas said the law goes just far enough.

"We decided a smoking ban on enclosed places would be tolerable but a smoking ban on public outdoor space would not," said Thomas.

When asked what he thought about extending the law to the beach, Thomas said he would be opposed to the option.

"To me it's too restrictive," said Thomas. "I think we took a bold step in restricting on enclosed spaces and that's as far as I'm going to take it."

North Myrtle Beach City Councilman Fred Coyne said many people sent in notes and letters thanking the city for placing the current smoking ban in place. For now the smoking ban in North Myrtle Beach only applies to public enclosed places, but Coyne said a smoking ban on the beach could be an issue the council takes up in the future.

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